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Why the Bills went from field goal to timeout to punt to defeat

By Tim Graham

A microcosm of the Buffalo Bills occurred early in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 15-12 loss to the St. Louis Rams in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Here comes a breakdown of the absurd sequence.

With 11:52 remaining, the Bills were up by five points and had a fourth-and-7 situation from the Rams' 34-yard line. Twice in similar circumstances this year, Bills coach Chan Gailey has declined to kick a field goal and opted to punt instead.

This time, Gailey sent Rian Lindell and the field-goal unit onto the field.

Then, with a botched Shawn Powell extra-point hold late in the third quarter on Gailey's mind, the coach abruptly switched course and decided to punt. The Bills recalled their field-goal unit.

"When they first told me, when I first turned," Gailey said of processing the information on the sideline, "they said it was a 50-yard field goal instead of a 52-, 53-yard field goal. We had just dropped the snap on the extra point. So that's why I pulled them back out of there and said, 'Hey, let's let the defense try to keep them pinned back.' "

Lindell looked irate as he stormed off the field. He gestured wildly and then stood farther away from Gailey than any other player on the sideline.

"Obviously, I want to kick everything," Lindell said. "But I think the one going through [Powell's] paws there on the PAT kind of played into that."

Lindell said he had made kicks from 55 yards in pregame warmups. That was before the rain started falling, but Lindell said the wind was at his back in the fourth quarter.

"It seemed to go that way at halftime, which is why we decided to kick into it [in the third quarter], so we could have it at the end," Lindell said.

To make matters worse, Gailey called a timeout rather than let the play clock expire for a delay-of-game penalty. If punting anyway, then moving back 5 yards would've been meaningless in that area of the field.

"Well, I was trying to get that to them to take the delay of game," Gailey said, "and Scott Chandler saw me tell them to take the delay of game. But I didn't know he got that word. So I was scared they were going to snap it. So that's why I called the timeout."

Gailey said he didn't consider trying to convert a fourth down with his offense.

"We weren't going to go for it there," Gailey said. "The defense was playing good. We were going to try to pin them back."

Asked about the decision, Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said: "You guys, all the coaching questions you always throw at me. I'm behind Chan 100 percent."

The decision -- if not the execution -- worked. Powell dropped a terrific punt. Ruvell Martin made a spectacular, leaping bat to keep the ball out of the end zone. Mana Silva downed it at the 5-yard line, and a defensive holding call on the Rams put them on the 3-yard line.

But field position didn't flip permanently. The Rams picked up a first down, and Johnny Hekker punted 50 yards. The Bills' next possession started on their own 30 with 9:05 to play.

Lindell had simmered down by the time reporters spoke with him in the locker room.

"I just want to hit a good ball," Lindell said. "Really, it's not going to make the uprights any wider if I get mad about any of that stuff. Really not. I need to be better. That's all I'm going to concentrate on."

The Bills could have used the three points. At the very least, they could have used the timeout on their final drive.

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham | tgraham@buffnews.com


Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan | mgaughan@buffnews.com


Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski | jskurski@buffnews.com

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